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Smith v. Lind

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

June 9, 2017

WALTER SMITH, Plaintiff,
BETH LIND, et al., Defendants.


          STEPHEN L. CROCKER Magistrate Judge.

         In this lawsuit, pro se plaintiff Walter Smith is pursuing claims related to the adequacy of Ramadan meal bags, the availability of proper foods for the Eid-ul-Fitr feast, the adequacy of the halal diet, and the availability of Islamic services and study groups. On February 28, 2017, I granted in part defendants' motion to dismiss Smith's claims on exhaustion grounds. (Dkt. 50.) In particular, I granted the motion as to Smith's claim related to the availability of Islamic services and study groups and 2008 Eid-ul-Fitr claims, but denied the motion as to the Ramadan meal bag and 2009 Eid-ul Fitr claims. Since then, defendants filed a motion for reconsideration of the decision with respect to the 2009 Eid-ul-Fitr claim (dkt. 51), and Smith filed a motion for reconsideration with respect to the Islamic services and study group claim (dkt. 52). Additionally, Smith filed a motion for appointment of an expert or, in the alternative, an extension of the expert disclosure deadline. (Dkt. 38.) For the reasons stated below, I am denying each of these motions.

         I. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59 Standard

         A party may file a motion for “reconsideration” under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) to alter or amend a judgment. “Rule 59(e) allows a party to direct the district court's attention to newly discovered material evidence or a manifest error of law or fact, and enables the court to correct its own errors and thus avoid unnecessary appellate procedures. . . . The rule does not provide a vehicle for a party to undo its own procedural failures, and it certainly does not allow a party to introduce new evidence or advance arguments that could and should have been presented to the district court prior to the judgment.” Moro v. Shell Oil Co., 91 F.3d 872, 876 (7th Cir. 1996) (citations omitted). Therefore, “[t]o prevail on a Rule 59(e) motion to amend judgment, a party must clearly establish (1) that the court committed a manifest error of law or fact, or (2) that newly discovered evidence precluded entry of judgment.” Blue v. Hartford Life & Accident Insurance Co., 698 F.3d 587, 598 (7th Cir. 2012) (internal quotation and citation omitted). Both pending motions for reconsideration rely on the first option, but “[a] manifest error is not demonstrated by the disappointment of the losing party. It is the wholesale disregard, misapplication, or failure to recognize controlling precedent.” Oto v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., 224 F.3d 601, 606 (7th Cir. 2000) (internal quotation and citation omitted).

         II. Defendants' Motion for Reconsideration (Dkt. 51)

         Defendants argue that I erred in concluding that the authority they relied on in their motion was not controlling. I disagree. Defendants sought dismissal of Smith's 2009 Eid-ul-Fitr claim because he failed to submit a DOC-2075 form, instead going directly through the ICRS process by filing a complaint and appeal when he was not satisfied with the response he received from the religious program director and Chaplain. (See WCI-2009-23171, dkt. 46-9, at 1.)

         In support, defendants' relied on a decision from this district, Schlemm v. Frank, No. 11-cv-272-wmc, 2014 WL 2591879, at *7-9 (W.D. Wis. June 10, 2014), aff'd in part, rev'd in part, 784 F.3d 362 (7th Cir. 2015). In Schlemm, the court dismissed certain claims on exhaustion grounds, reasoning that Schlemm failed to submit a DOC-2075 with respect to those claims and thus did not permit the RPAC to review his requests. Id. at *9. The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed without adding to the district court's analysis. Schlemm v. Wall, 784 F.3d 362, 363 (7th Cir. 2015).

         In denying defendants' request for dismissal of the 2009 Eid-ul Fitr claim, I concluded that the Schlemm decision was not controlling because the record in that case is unclear. When the court initially addressed the exhaustion issue, it denied defendants' motion for summary judgment because, although the defendants had established that Schlemm had not submitted a DOC-2075 form for certain claims, it appeared that he had attempted to submit grievances through the ICRS on those claims. 2013 WL 5442293, at *2-3 (W.D. Wis. Sept. 30, 2013). As, I explained previously:

The court nonetheless took up the exhaustion issue again, concluding that Schlemm did not properly exhaust those claims. 2014 WL 2591879, at *8-9. In reversing itself, the court emphasized that the “RPAC is not directly involved in responding to ICRS grievances, ” and stated that there was “no DOC-2075, ICRS grievance or other administrative response to Schlemm's request” so the claims “were not processed in compliance with procedures that were developed for the express purpose of determining how best to accommodate” his claims. Id. at *8. The court's mention of the absence of not just DOC-2075, but also an ICRS grievance or any “other administrative response, ” suggests that it was the complete absence of any evidence establishing that the prison responded to Schlemm's claims that convinced the court that the claims were not properly exhausted. Yet that conclusion belies defendants' concession that Schlemm had, in fact, submitted complaints through the ICRS.
(Id. at 7-8.)

         Finally, I turned to what I believe is the proper analysis in this circuit:

[M]y analysis must align with the requirements set forth in Maddox v. Love, 655 F.3d 709, 721 (7th Cir. 2011). In that case, the defendants sought dismissal on exhaustion grounds because an inmate failed to name the defendants or describe them in a grievance. The court disagreed with the defendants, holding that because the inmate followed the applicable three-step grievance process and prison officials never indicated that it was procedurally deficient, he properly exhausted. Id. at 722. The court reasoned that “where prison officials address an inmate's grievance on the merits without rejecting it on procedural grounds, the grievance has served its function of alerting the state and inviting corrective action, and defendants cannot rely on the failure to exhaust defense.” Id.

         In that context, I concluded that because Smith's grievance included a substantive response from religious personnel, the prison received the opportunity ...

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